Airport boardings in tailspinThe Jamestown Regional Airport Authority will send up to three people to Washington, D.C., to meet with officials June 6 in hopes of reversing a sudden decline in airplane boardings in Jamestown.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
The Jamestown Regional Airport Authority will send up to three people to Washington, D.C., to meet with officials June 6 in hopes of reversing a sudden decline in airplane boardings in Jamestown.
“To me, this is an emergency,” said Jim Boyd, JRAA chairman. “We need to jump on this thing and do whatever we can to get this thing changed.”
The meeting would include officials from Delta Air Lines and Great Lakes Aviation, multiple U.S. legislators from North Dakota and the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, as well as representatives from Devils Lake Airport.
The number of passengers per month getting on planes in Jamestown fell precipitously after the changeover in airlines from Delta to Great Lakes in March after Delta declined to bid on Jamestown’s Essential Air Service contract.
Essential Air Service provides federal subsidies for airline service to small airports.
The drastic dip in boardings came after 2011, a banner year for JRA, which saw its best numbers since 1978, when flights were tracked differently.
The numbers for 2012 haven’t been as rosy.
Boardings at Jamestown Regional Airport reached their highest point in February, when 797 people boarded planes in Jamestown, and then suddenly took a nose-dive, with only 448 boardings in March and just 185 boardings in April.
That’s back to 2006 levels, said Airport Manager Matt Leitner.
“We’re going backwards,” said Jeff Wilhelm, a member of the Airport Authority.
Reliability has been an issue as well, and Boyd has heard reports of mechanical issues and lateness from Great Lakes. The JRA is gathering data on those problems, but does not consider them to be the primary cause of the decline in boardings.
“The majority of the issues are with the noncompetitive fares,” Boyd said, calling it a “serious, serious problem.”
Part of the problem may be the “partial codeshare” arrangement, which has allowed people to book flights from Delta.com, but, according to Boyd, has never been adequately defined by Delta, despite repeated requests.
In a codeshare arrangement, multiple airlines — such as Great Lakes and Delta — share the same flight. The partial codeshare may be causing the noncompetitive fares, so JRA is going to try to get Delta to provide a full code share, which could bring back competitive fares and missing amenities such as Delta Vacations.
“I feel it’s a Delta problem,” Boyd said, adding that Devils Lake Airport, which also made the switch from Delta to Great Lakes, has had the same problems.
Boyd said he was confident the meeting in Washington could provide the issue with enough attention to get it fixed.
Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen, a member of the Airport Authority, initially expressed some concern about the cost of the trip but then said it was worth the expense to take advantage of the opportunity to fix the problem.
“I think we have to take it seriously and go in there with power and might,” said Keith Veil, a member of the airport board.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org